Children in Guyana involved in worst forms of child labour, prostitution – 2011 Survey

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[File Photo from Reuters]
[File Photo from Reuters]
[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Ministry of Social Protection has released the findings of the 2011 National Child Labour Rapid Assessment Survey, which among other things, found that children and young workers in Guyana are involved in the worst forms of child labour including prostitution.

According to the Ministry, the survey was conducted in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Linden, Corriverton, Black Bush Polder, Number 58 Village, Charity, Kwakwani, and Ituni among three categories of children: 15 years and younger (as young as five years old), 15 to 16 and 16 to 18.

It was noted that some 532 children and young workers were involved in the survey, which was done during the period April 4 to 15, 2011.

The statement from the Ministry explained that the enumerator spent one week focusing on child labourers, who were involved in daylight and night activities. The night visits were done at hotels, nightspots and places where child labour activities were deemed prevalent.

“Many of the youths canvassed were involved in selling and agriculture in all three categories, while hidden evidence of prostitution activities were found in all of the age ranges. Also troubling was the fact that a small percentage of the children and working youths sustained illness and injuries while working. These occurred while the children and young workers were involved mainly weeding, begging or carrying out sexual activities. Also found was many children and young workers involved in carrying heavy loads and operating machinery. Some were also exposed to all weather conditions, chemicals, pesticides, glues, dust, fumes and gases at their places of work,” the survey revealed.

According to the Ministry, most of the homes of the children and working youths were headed by single females who had more than one dependant and most times more than one working child.

“The guardian/parents reported that the main reason for the children and young individuals working was to help support their families. Sixty-seven percent of the children in the 15 years and younger categories were males with 40% of this age group not being in school and 36% of them being employed on a full-time basis. One primary level child in this group had never attended school,” the survey found.

It was further noted that in the second category, 15 to 16 years, 77% of the child labourers were males with 49% of them not being in school. While most of the children in both categories (19% and 23% respectively) were involved in rice farming, 8% of them in both groups were involved prostitution and strip dancing.

“Interestingly, among the older working individuals (16 to 18 years) 1% was involved in sex work with the majority (40%) being involved in retailing. During the 12 months prior to the survey, 12% of the working children and young workers sustained illness and 42% said the injuries were work related. Of that number 49% of them had to stop school to recuperate.”

The younger children, according to the survey, were paid $6,000 a week and worked mainly below 32 hours per week while the older children (16 to 18) worked for $8,000 a week but for longer hours.

“It should be noted that not all of the children in the younger age group were paid.”

The Ministry noted that while the findings of the survey are troubling, the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Social Protection will take urgent steps to address this problem “since we are aware of the debilitating effects of child labour. Our nation’s children and youths are our future and they should be provided with the best possible opportunities to ensure they achieve their full potential.”

Planned steps to be taken to address this problem include, but are not limited to:

  • Create a unit that focuses specifically on the issue of child labour which will be expected to create strategies to address this phenomenon, including the poverty factor;
  • Enforcement of the requisite laws that cover child labour ;
  • Remove working children off the streets and ensure they are in school; and
  • Provide more funding to facilitate labour inspections

The Ministry noted that the recent United States Department of Labour (DOL) child labour report found that Guyana’s children are engaged in child labour in agriculture and in the worst forms of child labour in commercial sexual exploitation. That report bemoaned the fact that the findings of the 2011 survey were still to be released.

The Guyana National Child Labour Rapid Assessment was conducted through the Statistical Unit of the ministry with funding through the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) from its Tackling Child Labour through Education (TACKLE).

According to the Ministry, while the report was completed in 2011, several objections from the past PPP/C administration resulted in the findings not being released. The report underwent six reviews.

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